Let’s talk blogging

In this section we’ll talk about blogging, what it means, why you should do it, how to go about it, what technologies can help you, and how you go about building community around your blog. Community is vital – after all if you produce something you probably want others to read and engage in it? We will also talk about how to make a living from it.

Introduction to Blogging

The first thing I would say is that if you think blogging is one of those “get rich quick” schemes then it’s not – or at least it hasn’t been for me. Whilst it is possible to earn a reasonable income from blogging you need to be prepared to really commit to the idea and put more effort into it than any job you could imagine. Blogging operates in a 24/7 space and opportunities are around every corner for building your blog community – so you always need to be ready.

However, the rewards shouldn’t be just financial anyway. I have gained much more out of blogging than money could ever give. Blogging has taught me things, made me friends, and allowed me to express my views in a way that I could never do anywhere else. Being one of the world’s biggest introverts I was happy to find blogging, or it found me, either way it gave me a voice.

What is Blogging?

From family and friends, to business, politicians, and celebrities, it seems everybody has a blog or is thinking about getting one. Blogs are almost getting to the point of the “family home video” – remember those?

Blogging is sometimes thought of as “one of those buzz technologies” but it is simpler than that. At its basic level, it is simply a collection of articles, collated together, and ordered in some way, often by date, and that’s where it got its name – from the term “web logging”. Articles (or “content”, or “posts”, as they are sometimes referred) might be text-based such as editorial, or they could be collections of images or photography, audio clips such as podcasts, or videos, or any combination of these.

Blogs are full of dynamic (which means they are updated regularly) articles rather than traditional static websites which usually have a fixed number of pages that don’t change very much. Blogs are often dated and sorted in a particular order such as by date or type of article. Blogs are designed to be remixed and syndicated – so articles can appear on other sites. Blogs are often, though not always, accompanied by comments for giving readers the opportunity for feedback. Blogs can be global, national, local, even hyper-local, but they all have a few things in common.

Examples of blogs could be a news site (such as this technology related one), or it could be an opinion or review column, perhaps an amateur dramatics group may include videos of their performances on a site, or it could be a regular comedy podcast. It’s up to you and there are plenty out there to choose from already – a search for the term “blog” using Google returned around 11 billion results (checked 7th December 2012).

According to the United States Census Bureau there are around 7 billion people in the world (give or take 50 million or so) so that’s already around 1.5 results per person. A study, in March 2012 by global insights company NM Incite, tracked over 181 million blogs around the world whereas just five years earlier there were around 36 million. That’s a lot of blogs and we haven’t even talked about micro-blogging sites yet – sites such as Tumblr and Twitter.

There are different kinds of blogging which could include:

  • News sites
  • Opinion sites
  • Review sites
  • Question and answer sites
  • List sites
  • Personal diaries and journals
  • Portfolio/CV sites
  • Video or Audio sites
  • Business promotion sites
  • Group sites
  • Hybrid sites – a combination of the above

Why Blog?

A blog can provide a mechanism for expression, for inspiration, for selling products, or to simply provide an opportunity for a voice to be heard. Blogging is also extremely flexible – you could opt to blog multiple times per day, or just once per week or even less.

There are no “rules” to blogging – you simply need to be interested enough in something to want to explore further. Before you blog though, you should consider your time commitment, as there are plenty of examples of forgotten blogs where the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded. If time is short you may be tempted to produced articles very quickly but if you want to produce articles that others will want to read, and engage in, you may be well served to plan your activities in order to give them proper consideration.

The anatomy of a blog

Modern blog articles have some pretty standard features about them and many of these features are optional. However, every aspect of the anatomy of a blog article needs careful consideration to ensure your work has the best chance of standing out from the crowd.

From a “behind the scenes” point of view writing for online is quite different from writing for a printed publication, so it is important to get things right so your article gets listed properly in search engines and directories and more importantly that it gets shared appropriately by its readers.

A blog article that is easy to share is likely to stand a better chance than one that’s need a little work from the readers side.

Standard features of a typical blog article

(A) URLoften known as a Permalink – a unique web address.

(B) Title – descriptive enough to be used out of context (for example in directories and search results).

(C) Bodythe article itself which can contain words, images, links, videos, and other content. A typical blog post length is around 500 words but this is highly flexible and can literally range from none at all (for a video post for example) to several thousand.

(D) Sharing – Technically, sharing information isn’t contained within an article, but it’s worth mentioning here as getting the sharing information right can provide an opportunity to reach more potential readers as well as providing a mechanism to let others easily share your articles.

(E) Comments – though not all blogs switch comments on they play an important part in allowing readers to interact with the articles they read.

Optional features of a typical Blog article

(F) Metadataincluding categories and tags

(G) Author – this is becoming more important as the web moves to “authority of content“.

(H) Date and Time

(I) Teaser/Snippet (not shown) – often just a snippet of the body but sometimes a specially written introductory summary. The snippet is the part that often shows up in search results.